When we look at nanomaterials, we notice them being used in a wide range of industries and consumer products. But what makes nanomaterial technology so desirable?
It is easy to think of big problems; ones that are easy to see. But a lot of today’s important issues are microscopic. Think of things like cancer or autoimmune diseases. These issues exist at the cellular level, far too small to solve with any conventional tools.
To solve issues at a microscopic level, you need to build really small things. And if you want these things to be really small, you have to make them out of small materials.
Really small materials. Like nanomaterials.
Nanomaterials are used everywhere, from the healthcare industry to electronics. And, even though these materials are small in size, nanomaterials are much stronger than most materials we currently have.
For something to be officially classified as a nanomaterial, at least one of its dimensions must be smaller than 100 nanometres. To put this in perspective, a nanometre is one-millionth of a millimeter.
But do not let the small size of nanomaterials fool you. Compared to their larger-scale counterparts, they often have better properties like increased strength, chemical reactivity, and conductivity.
One of the most popular and versatile examples of nanomaterials is graphene. Discovered in 2004, graphene is the thinnest compound known to man at just one atom thick. It is the lightest material known, the strongest compound discovered yet, the best conductor of heat at room temperature, and also the best conductor of electricity known to man.
Graphene almost sounds like a super material. So why isn’t it being used by every manufacturer?
With any new technology, the reality is it generally takes years to develop. Some companies are exploring its use as a conductive electronic material. But of course, we already have such materials existing today. And for graphene to displace what is already well-established technology, it needs to have greater advantages over what we have already.
But that is not to say that graphene hasn’t gone anywhere in 15 years since its discovery. The sports industry was an early adopter of graphene. Gears like graphene-enhanced tennis rackets are lighter and stronger than conventional rackets. Graphene-enhanced helmets, ski equipment, and even Lacrosse gear are a few examples of graphene-enhanced products available. Graphene has also entered the consumer electronics market for heat management purposes.
With possible applications in aeronautics, wearable technologies, and security use like stronger but lighter armors, the future of graphene is very versatile.